How do thoughts differ from feelings? Putting the differences into words

William Ickes, Wen Cheng
2011 Language and Cognitive Processes  
The present study addressed the question of why people find it easy to distinguish their thoughts from their feelings. In three datasets, we compared the linguistic content of self-reported thoughts and feelings by using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count software (LIWC; Pennebaker, Francis, & Booth, 2001) . Theoretical ideas proposed by Klinger (1977) led us to predict-and find-that thoughts, when compared to feelings, tend to be (1) present-or futuredirected, as opposed to past-directed;
more » ... to past-directed; (2) relatively open-ended and indefinite, as opposed to completed and definite; and (3) complexly contextualized. More specifically, reported thoughts contain a greater percentage of (1) present-and future-tense verbs; (2) question marks and "discrepancy words" such as should, would, and could; and (3) words (such as verbs, pronouns, and prepositions) that track people's actions and changing locations. In summary, thoughts and feelings appear to have characteristic "linguistic markers" that enable lay perceivers to readily distinguish them. Thoughts versus Feelings 3 How Do Thoughts Differ from Feelings?: Putting the Differences into Words Since the dawn of civilization, understanding the delicate relationship between affect and cognition has been a recurrent puzzle that has occupied artists, writers, and philosophers. Classic thinkers such as Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, Descartes, Pascal, and Kant devoted considerable attention to exploring the relationship between feeling and thinking in human affairs. -Forgas, 2008, p. 94 As Forgas (2008) has noted, there has been a long history of debate within the field of philosophy about how thoughts are different from feelings and how these two forms of subjective experience-cognition and affect-are related to each other. Eventually, and not surprisingly, this debate moved into the field of psychology as well. In 1984, for example, Lazarus and Zajonc debated the primacy of thought versus feeling in a widely-cited exchange that was published in the American Psychologist. As Zajonc put it, Lazarus argued that "cognition is a necessary precondition" for the experience of affect, whereas Zajonc himself claimed that affect can be independent of cognition and can often precede, as well as follow, it (Zajonc, 1984). Reviewing this issue the following year in her book Structure in Thought and Feeling, Aylwin (1985) sided with Zajonc. She began by noting that "At their closest, thought and feeling are inextricably linked," giving as one example the experience of insight. "Here the excitement accompanying the cognitive content is what tells the thinker the idea is a good one. At the moment of insight, truth is as much a matter of feeling as it is of thought" (Aylwin, 1985, p. 3). However, Aylwin then went on to note that the relationship between thought and feeling is often not so close, and she concluded by endorsing a view quite similar to Zajonc's:
doi:10.1080/01690961003603046 fatcat:lwv7h4g64ra2taebio35geowb4